Fulɓe: Africa’s Pollinators Under Assault?

Map A. Pular (Pulaar) : western area of the language of the Fulbe.
Map A. Pular (Pulaar) : western area of the language of the Fulbe. (Source : voir Carte B)
Map B. Fulfulde : eastern area of the language of the Fulbe
Map B. Fulfulde : eastern area of the language of the Fulbe. (Source : Marquis Michel de la Vergne de Tressan. Inventaire linguistique de l’Afrique occidentale française et du Togo. Mémoires de l’Institut français d’Afrique noire. N° 30. Dakar, IFAN. 1953, 240 p. cartes)
Fulbe (Fulani) pastoralists and their cattle in Northern Nigeria. They are wearing the traditional conical hat (libitiwal, in Fuuta-Jalon dialect). They are also holding the blessed and sacred herder's stick. The Republic of the Gambia's Tourism and Culture minister, <a href="http://www.webguinee.net/blogguinee/2017/12/les-hubbu-du-fuuta-jalon-lecture-critique/">Hamat Bah</a>, was pictured sporting a similar item in his swearing-in ceremony in 2017. (T.S. Bah)
Fulbe (Fulani) pastoralists and their cattle in Northern Nigeria. They are wearing the traditional conical hat (libitiwal, in Fuuta-Jalon dialect). They are also holding the blessed and sacred herder’s stick. The Republic of the Gambia’s Tourism and Culture minister, Hamat Bah, was pictured sporting a similar item in his swearing-in ceremony in 2017. (T.S. Bah)

Titled “Genocide, hegemony and power in Nigeria” Obadiah Mailafia’s paper is a case study of pseudo-historical rambling and misguided political activism. From the title to the last line it is filled with false assumptions, malicious accusations, and malignant statements. The article illustrates the confusion sowed by “educated” and “elite” individuals and groups among the peoples of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The propagators of the growing discord are a heteroclite bunch. For instance, they include Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka as well as heretofore unknown individuals, such as Mr. Obadiah Mailafia.
I re-post his paper here in the Documents section. The tract is replete with vile insults, ignorant statements, absurd allegations, vitriolic partisanship, fallacious claims and laughable distortions of history. The author refers to the Hausa-Fulani peoples as “a new mongrel race.” How low can someone who considers himself an African be so rude and stoop so low against fellow Nigerians and other Africans? How can hurl on the Web such a derogatory and vulgar term? How can he so gratuitously and readily commit such a despicable and outrageous offense!
In this blog, I denounce, rebut, recuse and refute some of the most egregious passages of Obadiah’s inflammatory article.

Africa’s pollinators

The domestication of the bovine constituted “one of humanity’s first leap forward” (Anselin 1981). It was a watershed achievement that spurred humans’ march into civilization. In parallel with other groups in Asia, America, Africa, ancient Fulɓe partook in such an accomplishment.

See Fulbe and AfricaThe Semantic Web and Africa

In “Cattle Before Crops: The Beginnings of Food Production in Africa,” a remarkable  research paper, Fiona Marshall and Elisabeth Hildebrand argue that, contrary to the other continents, domestication of plants came after that of animals. In other words, pastoralists preceded agriculturalists in “the development of food production” aimed at meeting “the need for scheduled consumption.”
 Thus, while their prehistoric neighbors figured out plant cultivation, ancient Fulbe were a step ahead in taming the wild ancestor of the bovine. In so doing, those pastoralists and agriculturalists forebears  became, metaphorically, the pollinators of Africa. Which, in turn, as we all know, is the cradle of humankind. It is appalling that Mr. Obadiah Mailafia chose to waste his time assaulting one of Africa’s indigenous peoples.

War mongers instead peace makers

Big problems and serious contradictions —legitimate or fabricated — strife and tensions have plagued the Federal Republic of Nigeria since its founding in 1963. And in recent decades its middle section, bad blood has opposed Muslim Fulɓe (Fulani) cattle herders to Christian agriculturalists. Such hostilities are neither new, nor specific to Nigeria. Thus, Ireland is still recovering from a lengthy and bloody civil war between Protestants and Catholics. Likewise, in the tinderbox region of the Balkans, in southern Europe, peace remains fragile as new countries continue to cope with the collapse and splinter of Yougoslavia.

Read (a) The Butcher’s Trail : how the search for Balkan war criminals became the world’s most successful manhunt (b) The Trial of Radovan Karadzic

Back in the Middle Age, France and England fought the Hundred Year’s War. It pitted Catholics against Protestants and, among other atrocities. Joan of Arc life was engulfed by fire at the stake, reducing her body in ashes. In this 21st century the world watches the Rohingya’s plight and flight from persecution by Myanmar’s Buddhist extremists…
Nigeria’s Muslim/Christian divide is deep-seated in history. But they can —should and must — be negotiated amicably and resolved in peace. Unfortunately, instead of seeking positive solutions to the feuds, militants and agitators — like Obadiah Mailafia — who are recklessly bent on fanning the flames of hostility and hatred. Instead of being peace makers, they demonize their neighbors and sound like war mongers. Such a dangerous behavior must be stopped.

Obadiah Mailafia writes:

Gramsci invented the notion of “hegemonia” (hegemony) to explain the structure and anatomy of domination in political society

Error! The editors of Wikipedia would beg to differ with Obadiah Mailafia. They, who pinpoint that Gramsci studied the cultural aspect of hegemonic power, i.e., not hegemony, by and large, but one aspect of its aspects. Other manifestation of supremacy rule include the economy, warfare religions, science…

I find this concept of hegemony so relevant with what is going on in relation to the genocide being perpetrated by the Fulani militias in the Middle Belt of our country today.

Obadiah is entitled to his opinion, but not to the facts. First, he fails to cite any external references or sources. Then, he does not care to provide evidence of ongoing genocide in Nigeria. We know that such tragedy  befell the country during the Biafran War. Then, genocide stroke in Rwanda. But here, my view is nothing demagoguery brings Obadiah to claim that the recurrent attacks and retaliations in Nigeria amount to genocide.

Historians the world over agree that the original home of the Fulani people is Futa Jallon (also known in the French as Fouta Djallon) in the Upper Guinea highlands of the West African Republic of Guinea.

Wrong! Fuuta-Jalon (not Futa Jallon, or Fouta Djallon!) is one of the many regions the Fulɓe call home in 21 Africa countries. But it is certainly not their birthplace. In reality, pushing their cattle herds out of Takrur (southern Mauritania-northern Senegal), they began migrating to the region back in the 12th century C.E.. Takrur existed since the 4th century. Although it has fallen into oblivion, it was a lasting and glorious experiment that forged a new people (the Takruri) out of a melting pot of Soninke, Serer, Wolof, Mande, Fulɓe communities. And, significantly, around the 9th century Takrur became the first sub-Saharan state to adopt Islam as its official religion. However, it conquest by Emperor Sunjata Keita sealed its demised. Fulbe had been leaving the areas for quite some time. But the destruction of Takrur accelerated their exodus. They moved south toward what is today’s Fuuta-Jalon. They also headed east into Maasina, Jelgoogi, Sokoto, Adamawa, etc. In The Fulani Empire of Sokoto, historian H.A.S. Johnston indicates that Fulbe herdsmen begun settling in the Sokoto region as early as the 12th century.

Also known as Fula, Fulbe or Pullo, the Fulani are thought to have emigrated from North Africa and the Middle East in ancient times, settling in the Futa Jallon Mountains and intermarrying with the local population and creating a unique ethnic identity based on cultural and biological miscegenation.

It’s other way around, the indigenous pair (Pullo, singular / Fulɓe, plural) provides the basis for the various names given to the Fulɓe . For instance, they are called Takruri (Moors), Fellasha (Arabs), Peul (Wolof), Fula (Mande), Fulè (Sose, Jalunka) Fulani (Hausa), etc.

The Malian writer and ethnologist Amadou Hampaté Ba famously described Futa Jallon as “the Tibet of West Africa”, on account of its surfeit of Muslim clerics, Sufi mystics, itinerant students and preachers.

Correction: Amadou Hampâté Bâ was no ordinary writer and ethnologist. He was a leader of Pulaaku, the Fulbe way of life. He coined the phrase: “In Africa, when an elder dies, its a library burning down.” Thanks to serendipity, he had received in 1953 an initiation in the sacred rite of Geno and by-gone fulɓe spirituality built around the bovine. In 1961, he teamed with Germaine Dieterlen, a noted ethnologist of religions and the author of Essai sur la religion bambara. The pair co-edited the French version of Kumen, the bible of Fulbe pastoralists. In his review of the book, ethnologist fell in aw with “La poésie saisissante de ce récit [qui] évoque les plus belles pages de la Bible”.
Amadou Hampâté Bâ once declared: “I love Fulfulde, my language. I am proud to be a Pullo poet.” For his tireless advocacy for the continent’s verbal heritage, Ivoirian writer Isaac Biton Coulibaly bestowed upon A. H. Bâ the title of “pope of African oral tradition.” Bâ lived his life as a disciple of Tierno Bokar Salif Taal, a tijaniyya sufi master who taught Islam and tolerance …
Never mind, displaying his bellicose mindset, Obadiah seeks to tarnish “the Tibet of West Africa” homage with the epithet “surfeit.” Again, Gilbert Vieillard must be turning in his grave. For he asserted that Fuuta-Jalon was the Dar-al-Islam (Door of Islam) of western Africa. And in his book The Holy War of Umar Tal: the Western Sudan in the mid-nineteenth century Prof. Robinson concurred in these terms:

« Fuuta-Jalon was much more than an Almamate dominated by a Fulɓe aristocracy. It was a magnet of learning, attracting students from Kankan to the Gambia, and featuring Jakhanke clerics at Tuba as well as Fulɓe teachers. It acted as the nerve centre for trading caravans heading in every direction. The more enterprising commercial lineages, of whatever ethnic origin, established colonies in the Futanke hills and along the principal routes. It served their interests to send their sons to Futanke schools, to support the graduates who came out to teach, and in general to extend the vast pattern of influence that radiated from Fuuta-Jalon. »

Such were, among other things, the facts that prompted A.H. Bâ to label Fuuta-Jalon, a spiritual stronghold akin to Thibet.

The second traditional home of the Fulani is Futa Toro, by the banks of the Senegal River in the current nation of Senegal.

Wrong! Fuuta-Tooro was located in the direct sphere of influence of Takrur. Therefore Fulbe lived there, first, and centuries before the headed down south toward Fuuta-Jalon.

Over the centuries the Fulani converted to Islam and some of them became zealous Muslim clerics and itinerant proselytisers. Through war and conquest they formed several kingdoms, among them Tukolor, Massina, the Caliphate of Usman Dan Fodio and Fombina in the early nineteenth century.

Wrong! In “The Social and Historical Significance of the Peul Hegemonies in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries,” Marxist historian Jean Suret-Canale join other scholars to point out that the Fulbe clerics became victorious through a combination of preaching the Word and wielding of the Sword. It behooved them to win the mind more than the body of new converts. They largely succeeded in their mission. And in Sokoto, Usman ɓii Fooduyee (Usman dan Fodio, in Hausa), his brother Abdullah, his children Mohammed and Asma’u offer a stellar example of such accomplishments.
Read The Caliph’s Sister: Nana Asma’u 1793-1865: teacher, poet and Islamic leader and One woman’s Jihad : Nana Asma’u, scholar and scribe.

To be continued.

Tierno S. Bah

Mohamed Touré. Like father, like son?

Denise Cros-Touré and Mohamed Touré. April 24, 2018. Photo: Tarrant County Sheriff's Department
Denise Cros-Touré and Mohamed Touré. April 24, 2018. Photo: Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department

In a press release today  here in Washington, DC the Department of Justice announced that:

“Mohamed Toure, 57, and Denise Cros-Toure, 57, of Ft. Worth, Texas, appeared today in federal court in the Northern District of Texas on a criminal complaint charging them with forced labor.”

Historical and political overview

Mohamed is the only legitimate son of Ahmed Sékou Touré, Guinea’s first president.  Ms. Denise Cros-Touré is the daughter of the late Marcel Cros, who held high-level appointments in the administration and the government of Guinea’s first republic (1958-1984). Upon Sékou Touré’s death in Cleveland, Ohio, his all-powerful ruling Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG) collapsed and split into  the family and companions factions. The first camp reflected family ties and kinship. The other branch adopted companionship to the late president as its cornerstone. Abandoned and reduced to hollow shells, both groups claimed the mantle of heirs to the defunct dictator. Marcel Cros —Denise’s father — headed the family-oriented bloc. Mr. Momo Bangoura still leads the cohort of “companions” of the PDG.

Artificial and divisive distinction

The above splinter of the PDG is reminiscent of the dissensions within Guinea-Bissau’s PAIGC in the early 1970. They resulted in the assassination of Amilcar Cabral. In both cases, light-skinned individuals or mulattoes were —  artificially — pit against dark skinned black leaders and members. …
In Guinea-Conakry, Marcel Cros belonged in the mulatto minority. When he died, Mohamed Touré became secretary general of the Parti démocratique de Guinea. That formation is, today, nothing but a pale, shadowy and shrunken version of the erstwhile formidable ruling machine. Mohamed won only 0.2% of the vote in the 2010 presidential election. And he did not qualify for running in the 2015 vote because he failed to meet the eligibility criteria.

Unintended consequences

Fast forward to today with the serious grievances leveled by the unnamed baby-sitter against Mohamed Touré and his wife Denise Cros. Although at a much personal level, and on a domestic scale, the scandal reads as a cruel repetition of history. It hearkens back to a sixty-year old political incident. Then, on August 25, 1958, in his capacity as president of the territorial government of French Guinea as well as secretary-general of the majority party (PDG), Sékou Touré told the visiting General Charles de Gaulle that:

« Nous préférons la liberté dans la pauvreté à l’oppulence dans l’esclavage. » (We prefer liberty in poverty to wealth in slavery”

It was a rhetorical and eloquent cliché ; it became a consequential bluster. And its  unintended and unforeseen consequences emerged soon after. Precisely, it triggered the — still unfolding and worsening — Guinean tragedy. That calamity is the mainstay of a strong and brilliant tradition of  intellectual denunciation and literary representation. An online sample of those articulate, meaningful and expressive works is accessible on webGuinée under the title Dictature et littérature. The great writer Maryse Condé is among the authors who endeavored to expose Sékou Touré’s tyranny.

Condé’s autobiography is titled La vie sans fards.

Sékou Touré’s catchy statement made him famous around the world. Especially following French Guinea’s overwhelmingly No vote whereby the territory rejected de Gaulle’s Constitution of the Fifth republic and its complementary Communauté Franco-Africaine. As a result, Guinea became a sovereign country on October 2, 1958.

L’éclatement de la Fédération du Mali (1960) : d’une Fédération rêvée au choc des réalités, mai 1960

Un combat pour l’unité de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. La Fédération du Mali (1959-1960)

However, the law of unintended consequences soon began to bear on the people of Guinea. And, faced with mounting popular dissatisfaction and growing illegitimacy, President Sékou Touré engaged in a conspiracy strategy to justify the repressive methods of his police-state.

Guinea: Estrangement Between the Leaders and the People

Sékou Touré’s rule of terror built on the so Permanent Plot… against his regime. He invented the conspiracies in order to instill fear and to mount cyclical purges.

As a result, freedom and prosperity vanished from Guinea. Poverty and oppression settled in.

The livelihood and well-being of the population plummeted. The economy tanked. And millions of peasants emigrated to near and distant countries
Human rights wise, the country’s best minds (teachers, lawyers, economists, engineers, doctors), talented entrepreneurs, trained military officers, etc. disappeared in successive plots denounced out of nowhere by the regime. Families were destroyed. Tens of thousands of political prisoners —Guineans and foreign nationals —were arrested, tortured, tried and sentenced in their absence. And executions at Camp Boiro continued unabated.

Documentary movie Allah Tantou

Total impunity

Sékou Touré’s successors, including the corrupt regime of the sitting president, Alpha Condé, have worsened the distress and the plight of the people of Guinea. The country’s leaders have behave worse than the French colonial rulers. Their patriotic discourse is vocal, loud. However, their policies and actions belie their speeches. For they behave not as humble servants, but as the masters of the populations. For example, since Mr. Condé’s second inauguration in 2015, the security forces have killed more than 94 peaceful marchers in Conakry alone.
In total impunity!
In 2012, corruption-buster and then national director of the Treasury, Ms. Aissatou Boiro, was shot at point blank. Criminality is rampant and the level of gang violence has increased.  In 2015, journalist Cherif Diallo was kidnapped. He disappeared and has not to be seen again. The same year car thieves robbed and killed Thierno Alioune Diaouné, National Coordinator for the UN Peacebuilding Fund and former Minister of Youth and Sports. Another journalist, Mohamed Koula Diallo, was murdered in 2016. In almost all these and many other cases, investigations lead to dead-ends and remain cold…
Meanwhile, using delaying tactics, the authorities keep dragging their feet for the trial of the indicted perpetrators of the September 28, 2009 massacre, carried out by the military and para-military forces of the junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

Report of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of the events of 28 September 2009 in Guinea

Criminal mindset and behavior

Apparently, Mohamed Touré and his wife espouse the deviant, merciless, nasty and — allegedly criminal —mindset and behavior that sixty years of dictatorship has instilled in Guineans. Did the couple adopt and apply Sékou Touré’s oppressive, repressive and exploitative system to a member of their family? If so, then it’s like father (Sékou), like son (Mohamed).

Had they had shown a little compassion toward their illiterate, helpless, poor and young servant from rural Guinea, they would have spared themselves and their grown-up children the scandal and shame created by this federal judicial case.

Justice will prevail

If convicted, the couple faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. Meanwhile, they remain innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers.

Having caught up with Ms. and Mr. Touré, Justice will proceed in a impartial and professional way, and at a fair and steady pace. The same Justice continues to elude Guineans at home. But it will most likely prevail in court in the Northern District of Texas. Just as it did in the Southern District of New York, in the Mahmoud Thiam corruption and bribery case.

Tierno S. Bah

Attaque de novembre 1970 : quarante-sept ans après

La date d’aujourd’hui marque le quarante-septième anniversaire de l’attaque du 22 novembte 1970 par un commando militaire portugais et des opposants guinéens armés contre Conakry. L’opération visait deux objectifs :

  • La libération des dix-huit prisonniers de guerre Portugais — dont le fils du maire de Lisbonne — qui avaient été capturés par la guerilla du PAIGC dirigée par Amilcar Cabral
  • L’élimination du Président Sékou Touré et l’abolition de son régime
Prisonniers de guerre Portugais capturés au combat, transférés et détenus au camp du PAIGC, situé au quartier Bellevue de Conakry. Ils furent libérés et rapatriés par le commando du 22 novembre 1970.
Prisonniers de guerre Portugais capturés au combat, transférés et détenus au camp du PAIGC, situé au quartier Bellevue de Conakry. Ils furent libérés et rapatriés par le commando du 22 novembre 1970.

J’ai constitué le présent dossier pour rappeller à la mémoire ce bref épisode aux conséquences profondes et prolongées, draconniennes et inhumaines. Et qui continue de hanter la Guinée. Pour introduire cette sélection, j’ai choisi un extrait de l’analyse lucide de Sako Kondé, l’auteur de Guinée, le temps des fripouilles. Directeur général de la Douane jusqu’en 1965, cet intellectuel et critique implacable de la dictature guinéenne dresse, dans le chapitre IX du livre  “Pour l’honneur de la Guinée et de l’Afrique”, le réquisitoire du régime et celui des dirigeants de  l’opposition en exil. Il les met dans le même sac, et il rend  hommage aux Guinéens qui prirent les armes contre le régime. Sako Kondé écrit :

  « A l’aube du 22 novembre 1970, des Guinéens ont débarqué sur le sol natal, l’arme à la main, décidés à abattre la tyrannie ou à mourir. Si l’opération a tourné à la tragédie, ce ne fut pas, en tout cas, parce que le régime leur a opposé une quelconque résistance aux premières heures : il était virtuellement vaincu, le prétendu « attachement indéfectible » du peuple n’ayant à aucun moment joué. Ce fut à cause de la trahison des chefs politiques de l’affaire. Mais avant de mourir, les combattants ont fait revivre intensément une chose qu’on aurait cru désormais oubliée des Guinéens : le courage, l’audace. En accomplissant leur devoir comme ils l’ont fait, ils ont administré une terrible leçon à l’actuel personnel politique. Ils l’ont aussi donnée aux quelques Guinéens qui ont conduit l’affaire au niveau politique en la ramenant à la dimension d’une ténébreuse aventure, et prouvé qu’ils appartiennent au même type socio-politique que les dirigeants en place. Leur mort héroïque constitue le seul moment rassurant et encourageant de cette lamentable entreprise menée par de soi-disant opposants sous le signe de la médiocrité, de l’inconscience criminelle … Il nous fallait, avant de poursuivre, faire cette distinction essentielle et rendre hommage au courage de ces gars bien de chez nous. »

… La suite est accessible à la bibliothèque du Camp Boiro Mémorial.

La collection inclut aussi les documents suivants :

L’hebdomadaire annonça l’évènement avec en exclusivité le récit d’un des Guinéens de l’expédition. Mais l’informateur anonyme présente une version  erronée des faits. relevait de l’intoxation et de la propagande. Il prétend notamment que le coup avait été conçu, financé et exécuté entièrement par des Guinéens, sans l’appui ou la participation du Portugal. Ce qui était faux.…

Jeune Afrique corrige ici l’information erronée contenue dans le numéro 518 à propos d’une opération strictement organisée par l’opposition en exil.

Tierno S. Bah

In Memoriam D. W. Arnott (1915-2004)

D.W. Arnott. The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula
D.W. Arnott. The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula

This article creates the webAfriqa homage and tribute to the memory of Professor David W. Arnott (1915-2004), foremost linguist, researcher, teacher and publisher on Pular/Fulfulde, the language of the Fulbe/Halpular of West and Central Africa. It is reproduces the obituary written in 2004 par Philip J. Jaggar. David Arnott belonged in the category of colonial administrators who managed to balance their official duties with in-depth social and cultural investigation of the societies their countries ruled. I publish quite a log of them throughout the webAfriqa Portal: Vieillard, Dieterlen, Delafosse, Person, Francis-Lacroix, Germain, etc.
The plan is to contributed to disseminate as much as possible the intellectual legacy of Arnott’s. Therefore, the links below are just part of the initial batch :

Tierno S. Bah


D. W. Arnott was a distinguished scholar and teacher of West African languages, principally Fulani (also known as Fula, Fulfulde and Pulaar) and Tiv, David Whitehorn Arnott, Africanist: born London 23 June 1915; Lecturer, then Reader, Africa Department, School of Oriental and African Studies 1951-66, Professor of West African Languages 1966-77 (Emeritus); married 1942 Kathleen Coulson (two daughters); died Bedale, North Yorkshire 10 March 2004.

He was one of the last members of a generation of internationally renowned British Africanists/linguists whose early and formative experience of Africa, with its immense and complex variety of peoples and languages, derived from the late colonial era.

Born in London in 1915, the elder son of a Scottish father, Robert, and mother, Nora, David Whitehorn Arnott was educated at Sheringham House School and St Paul’s School in London, before going on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Classics and won a “half-blue” for water polo. He received his PhD from London University in 1961, writing his dissertation on “The Tense System in Gombe Fula”.

Following graduation in 1939 Arnott joined the Colonial Administrative Service as a district officer in northern Nigeria, where he was posted to Bauchi, Benue and Zaria Provinces, often touring rural areas on a horse or by push bike. His (classical) language background helped him to learn some of the major languages in the area — Fulani, Tiv, and Hausa — and the first two in particular were to become his languages of published scientific investigation.

It was on board ship in a wartime convoy to Cape Town that Arnott met his wife-to-be, Kathleen Coulson, who was at the time a Methodist missionary in Ibadan, Nigeria. They married in Ibadan in 1942, and Kathleen became his constant companion on most of his subsequent postings in Benue and Zaria provinces, together with their two small daughters, Margaret and Rosemary.

From 1951 to 1977, David Arnott was a member of the Africa Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), London University, as Lecturer, then Reader, and was appointed Professor of West African Languages in 1966. He spent 1955-56 on research leave in West Africa, conducting a detailed linguistic survey of the many diverse dialects of Fulani, travelling from Nigeria across the southern Saharan edges of Niger, Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta, French Sudan (Burkina Faso and Mali), and eventually to Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea. Many of his research notes from this period are deposited in the Soas library (along with other notes, documents and teaching materials relating mainly to Tiv and Hausa poetry and songs).

He was Visiting Professor at University College, Ibadan (1961) and the University of California, Los Angeles (1963), and attended various African language and Unesco congresses in Africa, Europe, and the United States. Between 1970 and 1972 he made a number of visits to Kano, Nigeria, to teach at Abdullahi Bayero College (now Bayero University, Kano), where he also supervised (as Acting Director) the setting up of the Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages, and I remember a mutual colleague once expressing genuine astonishment that “David never seemed to have made any real enemies”. This was a measure of his integrity, patience and even-handed professionalism, and the high regard in which he was held.

Arnott established his international reputation with his research on Fula(ni), a widely used language of the massive Niger-Congo family which is spoken (as a first language) by an estimated eight million people scattered throughout much of West and Central Africa, from Mauritania and Senegal to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad (as well as the Sudan), many of them nomadic cattle herders.

Between 1956 and 1998 he produced almost 30 (mainly linguistic) publications on Fulani and in 1970 published his magnum opus, The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula (an expansion of his PhD dissertation), supplementing earlier works by his predecessors, the leading British and German scholars F.W. Taylor and August Klingenheben. In this major study of the Gombe (north-east Nigeria) dialect, he described, in clear and succinct terms, the complex system of 20 or more so-called “noun classes” (a classificatory system widespread throughout the Niger-Congo family which marks singular/plural pairs, often distinguishing humans, animals, plants, mass nouns and liquids). The book also advanced our understanding of the (verbal) tense- aspect and conjugational system of Fulani. His published research encompassed, too, Fulani literature and music.

In addition to Fulani, Arnott also worked on Tiv, another Niger-Congo language mainly spoken in east/central Nigeria, and from the late 1950s onwards he wrote more than 10 articles, including several innovative treatments of Tiv tone and verbal conjugations, in addition to a paper comparing the noun-class systems of Fulani and Tiv (“Some Reflections on the Content of Individual Classes in Fula and Tiv”, La Classification Nominale dans les Langues Négro-Africaines, 1967). Some of his carefully transcribed Tiv data and insightful analyses were subsequently used by theoretical linguists following the generative (“autosegmental”) approach to sound systems. (His colleague at Soas the renowned Africanist R.C. Abraham had already published grammars and a dictionary of Tiv in the 1930s and 1940s.)

In addition to Fulani and Tiv, Arnott taught undergraduate Hausa-language classes at Soas for many years, together with F.W. (“Freddie”) Parsons, the pre-eminent Hausa scholar of his era, and Jack Carnochan and Courtenay Gidley. He also pioneered the academic study of Hausa poetry at Soas, publishing several articles on the subject, and encouraged the establishment of an academic pathway in African oral literature.

The early 1960s were a time when the available language-teaching materials were relatively sparse (we had basically to make do with cyclostyled handouts), but he overcame these resource problems by organising class lessons with great care and attention, displaying a welcome ability to synthesise and explain language facts and patterns in a simple and coherent manner. He supervised a number of PhD dissertations on West African languages (and literature), including the first linguistic study of the Hausa language written by a native Hausa speaker, M.K.M. Galadanci (1969). He was genuinely liked and admired by his students.

David Arnott was a quiet man of deep faith who was devoted to his family. Following his retirement he and Kathleen moved to Moffat in Dumfriesshire (his father had been born in the county). In 1992 they moved again, to Bedale in North Yorkshire (where he joined the local church and golf club), in order to be nearer to their two daughters, and grandchildren.

Philip J. Jaggar
The Independent

Habré coupable ! Dadis à la barre !

Tchad. La Plaine des Morts
Tchad. La Plaine des Morts

Le glaive de la justice a doublement frappé l’ancien dictateur tchadien Hissène Habré aujourd’hui à Dakar. Dirigeant les Chambres africaines extraordinaires (CAE), le magistrat burkinaɓe Gberdao Gustave Kam, assisté des juges sénégalais Amady Diouf et Moustapha Bâ, a en effet reconnu l’accusé coupable de crimes contre l’humanité. Sujette à appel, la sentence de la cour est exemplaire et méritée : la prison à vie.
Ce jour est à marquer d’une pierre blanche, car il représente une victoire —maintes fois différée— des victimes sur les bourreaux dans l’Afrique post-coloniale.
Ce verdict constitue un jalon important dans la lutte contre l’impunité sur le continent. Mais il s’agit seulement d’une étape dans une course de fond et relai, d’une bataille dans une guerre permanente contre la tyrannie. D’autres despotes sont déjà tombés dans les filets de la justice. Exemples : l’ex-président du Libéria, Charles Taylor. Reconnu coupable de crimes contre l’humanité, de crimes de guerre et d’autres violations sérieuses de lois humanitaires internationales, il purge une peine de 50 ans de prison en Grande-Bretagne.

Moussa Dadis Camara
Moussa Dadis Camara

Le procès de Laurent Gbagbo, ancien président de la Côte d’Ivoire, s’est ouvert le 26 janvier dernier. Il répond à quatre chefs d’accusation relevant de crimes contre l’humanité — meurtre, viol et autres formes violence sexuelle, persécution et autres acts inhumains.
Comme on le voit les cas Habré et Ggagbo sont similaires aux crimes perpétrés en Guinée, de 1958 à nos jours.
Prenons le document intitulé “Report of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of the events of 28 September 2009 in Guinea”.

Cadavres et survivants du massacre au stade du 28 septembre, le 28 septembre 2009
Cadavres et survivants du massacre au stade du 28 septembre, le 28 septembre 2009

Le rapport accuse le chef de la junte militaire, Moussa Dadis Camara, alors capitaine, et ses collaborateurs d’être responsables de :

  • Crimes contre l’humanité
  • Crimes spécifiques : meurtre, emprisonnement et autres atteintes sérieuses contre la liberté physique
  • Tortures et de traitements cruels, dégradants et inhumains
  • Viols, esclavage sexuel, et violences sexuelles
  • Disparitions forcées
  • Actes inhumains
  • Persécution sexuelle, politique et ethnique
  • Violations des droits fondamentaux
Hissène Habré, ex-président du Tchad
Hissène Habré, ex-président du Tchad

M. Alpha Condé est soi-disant le président démocratiquement élu de la Guinée depuis 2010. Utilisant différentes méthodes et tactiques dilatoires, il retarde et/ou bloque l’enquête sur les massacres de 2009. Paradoxalement, des opposants politiques de M. Condé (UFDG, Bloc Libéral) ont voulu associer Dadis —exilé à Ouagadougou, capitale du Burkina Faso— à la campagne électorale de 2015, lui offrant ainsi une exonération éventuelle —extra-judiciaire et politicienne— face aux suspicions qui pèsent contre lui.
Mais les crimes énumérés ci-dessus restent punissables, quelque soit le délai mis pour déférer les accusés devant la justice. Il fallut 16 ans pour arrêter et juger Hissène Habré. Sept années se sont écoulées depuis la boucherie au stade du 28 septembre de Conakry. Il est temps que Moussa Dadis Camara passe à la barre.

Tierno S. Bah

Lire également :
A la barre. Hissène Habré condamné à la perpétuité : un procès pour l’histoire, mais des parts d’ombre
In landmark trial, former Chad dictator found guilty of crimes against humanity
La Plaine des Morts. Le Tchad de Hissène Habré

Vidéo : Reed Brody: The Dictator Hunter